Yeah, pretty much.
This post is kind of a mixed bag for me. It’s a strange phenomena to find the internet (i.e. the rest of the world) catching up with you for a change. Yesterday a friend of mine sends me a link to a game that I know all too well, and have been following all too closely myself. That game is currently my most-anticipated title… it is my desktop wallpaper, it’s been pre-ordered before even the clerks at the store had heard of it, and it’s none other than Brutal Legend. This should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me even slightly… in fact, if you’ve brushed past me at GDC, you may know this.
I don’t mean to jump the gun here, but (jumpgun)I’ll go ahead and say that Brutal Legend is the best game ever made(/jumpgun). Yep, I said it, and you can’t do anything about it. Brutal Legend is the game I’ve been looking forward to since before it was announced, it’s the game I’ve been waiting for moments after I destroyed my first orphanage in Lungfishopolis. If you don’t get that reference, please leave the website. Ok ok, come back… without you, this post serves no purpose, and therefore I am no one. The “moment” is from Psychonauts, a game critically acclaimed for being amazing, but infamous for lack luster sales. It was then that my cynicism began.
Before I get too deep into ‘it,’ let me just say that Brutal Legend has EVERYTHING going for it. I love Tim Schafer. The man is a genius and is absolutely hilarious. Everything he works on (Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island) has a personality that resonates through the game, and this has been quoted to be his dream project. I love Psychonauts. A brilliant game with some of the best writing and most creative level design to date. I love Double Fine. The studio that brought us Psychonauts. The studio that seems to be staffed by undercover super-stars. Like, you know that studio that has an amazing reputation for having great teams and so everyone’s always talking about how awesome they are? Well, they are like that, except only the cool people talk about them, and the average people don’t even know. I love Jack Black. I love Tenacious D. Jack Black, in my mind, is one of those guys that is just good at everything he does. Everything he touches has a slighly higher chance of turning to gold because he touched it. Sure a turd might still be a turd after all is said and done, but the probability of it being gold goes up when he touches it. And I love his band (hence the name of this post :D). So in conclusion, the only way this game could have more potential for me is if Joss Whedon was working on it too somehow.
Now, while I start getting too deep into ‘it,’ let me just address why I’m making this post and why it is something of a mixed bag. I feel like I need to make this post now, while it still counts for something. Brutal Legend was easily the breakout game of GDC this year I think, and it’s no surprise that game is rising quickly to stardom. I suppose this is exactly what I wanted with my years and years of “praising” Psychonauts, was for Brutal Legend to become popular… but the more popular it gets, the more my feelings get mixed. It’s not that I feel that my individuality is being questioned when something I identified with very much is becoming something everyone can identify with, no no, that would be selfish… and stupid. Ok maybe that’s it a little bit, but only a little bit. I suppose my fears boil down to a cautious optimism.
I want Brutal Legend to be popular because it is good, not good because it is popular. Obviously I can’t say that it is the best game ever made, because quite simply it isn’t done yet! It hasn’t yet been made! If it were any other game, right about here is where I would start getting pessimistic (as opposed to cautiously optimistic). Now that it is rising in popularity, all too easy is it to overlook small problems and pass along a amazing-but-just-slighly-less-than-as-amazing-as-envisioned product. Sure Psychonauts wasn’t perfect, and Brutal Legend probably wouldn’t have been perfect even if it was still as forgotten about as it was about a year ago when it almost got canceled, or maybe the year before that when it almost got canceled, or however much more forgotten about you can get. The difference is in motivation. The lack of a public “standard” or deadline or bar of quality can really motivate a team to deliver top notch quality. Why? Because they are working till they are satisfied with their own product, no other standard other than those set by themselves. No deadline other than “till it’s as good as I think it can be.” Now this isn’t realistic by any measure, but it’s certainly less so now that it is gained the public’s eye. Sure public expectations can result with positive outcomes as well, but I dunno, me personally, I think it’s easier to shine brightly when the spotlight isn’t on you. This begs the question of Psychonauts being as good if it was popular back then, and there’s no question that the game would have still been amazing. So maybe this isn’t a problem, and I’m thinking too much? Well I’m not done yet!
Now of course I want Brutal Legend to be great and do great and have phenomenal sales, and light up the charts and leave way for Double Fine Productions, a studio I want to work at unequivocally, to make a hundred other great games like Brutal Legend… But now we come back to the cynicism I mentioned a couple paragraphs ago. Just because the game is popular now, doesn’t mean that it will do well. I’m always overwhelmed by the capacity for humanity to overlook the good and settle for the mediocre. This is probably the most depressing thing I’ve ever said on my blog, but it’s truly how I feel. There’s always that fear of disappointment. Though I’m sure that anyone that cares about the outcome of this game has similar fears.
So the short version of this article is that I CARE about this game. I don’t know why I care so much, and it’s probably only going to hurt me in the end. I probably really should get to know the game quite a bit more before committing so much to it, and I really really really should know better. I go against all of my better judgement when I write this, but maybe I love it? Anyway, this post seems kind of depressing. So let me just finish by saying that I am looking forward to this game a lot, and I think it will be awesome. I don’t really care what anyone else thinks, I’ll be playing this game by myself alone at midnight in a dark room and I won’t come out till I’m a Legend.
So, I’ve been playing a lot of Chrono Trigger for DS lately. I suppose it really took off during my flights to and from San Francisco last week for GDC, and then my 12 hour “layover” also helped in this department.
Anyway, the game is of course brilliant, but what is more nostalgic to me than anything else is how brilliantly the story is told. Sure back in those days, all the stories were told this way, but even still for some reason I think that most other games still didn’t do it as well. Earthbound did, but that’s another reason Earthbound was awesome. Anyway, as usual, I’ve talked a lot about something and started talking about related subjects without actually saying what I am referring to.
I’m referring to the short-burst storytelling as is common in RPGs, especially in those days… the kind of storytelling that is all but dead in today’s day. I’m referring to the story that is told while you talk to townsfolk and random NPCs while running around the world. Most RPGs today use town “banter” as a poorly taken advantage of tool of immersion, and then use cutscenes and “significant” character dialog as story progression. The last game that I truly felt proper short-burst story telling in was I think Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic… if you played it, you know what I’m talking about.
I suppose it’s not really the fault of modern games or writing or writers or any one particular group… well unless you classify ‘lazy assholes’ as one group, but who the hell hasn’t been guilty of something that may defunct them into that category? With so many games now being forced to focus on story and allow time and presence for cutscenes and character dialog, it’s no wonder that we as an audience look for these things and basically skip everything else and let our subconscious sort it out. Not to mention the otherwise difficulty in developing a unique or original story that might actually entangle the player’s interest even a little.
I think that’s one of the new revolutions that needs to take place in storytelling in games. Make it sort of ADD and just start skipping forward hours and hours and just forgetting about everything in between. It’s like when you watch those shows and you see the “Previously on…” and pretty much get the gist of everything you missed. Basically make a game like that… I think that’s kind of what it was like. Skipping from one significant story element to the next, as walking through a town talking to NPCs.
Additionally, I’ll mention that I’m crazy impressed with how ridiculous the combat system in Chrono Trigger is. I dunno if I was too young or ignorant or spoiled to really appreciate it back when I first played it, but after over a decade of games with only a few handful or so of RPGs that have had a similarly awesome combat system, it makes me appreciate it a whole lot more. I’ll say that I wish I could have some better means to interface with the game, or some better UI elements to do moves or know what I want to do, but alas, maybe in another game…
Yep, I do. And did. And it was good. And… it was better than the comic!
…lol nah, I’m kidding, but it was good. I’d say most of the changes were very appropriate. Really, the movie was nothing we didn’t all expect. It was good, made some changes to fit the movie presence better, it was like a highlight reel of the main story from the comic, removing most of the immersive little qualities the comic had.
Honestly, I don’t know why I’m even writing this. Well, yes, I do know why, mostly because I wanted to say that “I Watch the Watchmen” a la “Who watches the Watchmen?” Yes it’s hilarious, and I’m the only one who has ever made that ‘quip.’ Now shut your god damn mouth.
There once was a time,
when no one came online,
people played their games,
without remembering any of their friends’ names.
A time when effort spent was nothing lost,
for there was nothing on our checklists that needed crossed.
Each objective had an appropriate reward, a fitting retribution,
as opposed to the next task at hand, requiring little or no intuition.
Though that time is gone, forever lost, forever mourned,
we will embrace our new tranquility,
with subconscious mind and obsessive ability.
The achievement blip at the helm,
now ruling our gaming realm;
with the majesty with which you are adorned,
I only wish that we were warned.
Oh peaceful and serene achievement blip,
your every visit makes my heart flip…
except when it’s just my friends coming online,
which is actually what’s happening 90% of the time.
Despite that however, my heart races and leaps and flies and soars,
but then I see my friend’s name and I’m just left wanting more.
In that moment I trip and fall and crash into depression,
and once again crawl back into my obsession.
I’ll never know why your visits I desire…
what I think I’d really like, is for you to retire.
What is it that you fulfill, for me to seek you so aggressively,
keeping me from living happily.
I feel like I don’t even play a game anymore,
unless it’ll improve my gamerscore.
At least I haven’t played things like King Kong, and Cars, and Avatar,
because then I might feel like a complete retard.
But unfortunately it’s probably only a matter of time,
till I commit that heinous crime.
As those little numbers increase by five and ten,
my dedication grows by a similar token.
I knew it was getting out of hand,
when I started counting the numbers like grains of sand,
till I reached the lofty ten thousand.
Alas, this was a burden with which I was born,
despite any and all of my scorn.
We may no longer be free,
but achievement blip I admire thee:
your evaluation had been something I’ve always wanted…
be it cold and cruel to leave me haunted.
Be careful what you wish for,
to open such a bitter sweet door,
for we are only mortal,
now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go play more Portal.
I know saying “My NXE Experience” is redundant because NXE stands for Next Xbox Experience, but whatever, it would have been dumb to say “My NXE,” no one would know what I was talking about!
Well, I doubt I have very much original to say here. Yeah, it’s different, it’s new, it still needs a lot of work, but there are plenty of improvements that definitely make it a positive change. I love the Party system, I hate all onslaught of ads they have thrown at us. More customization options would be nice too. But overall, this is a good thing.
Anyway, here’s my current Avatar.
I have to wonder, they had 3 of the 4 letters already going for them, and it was like a whole new next-generation sort of thing/advertising for them (which was very smart btw, and probably worked out really well for them), but why not just go the extra mile and come up with a ‘T’ word, and then call it the NEXT Experience. Or even cooler, the NXET Experience. There’s some scientific study out there where as long as the first and last letter are right, the middle letters, despite being jumbled, will read correctly. That would have been cool… well ok it would have been silly as hell, but I would have liked it.
Sometimes I think about everything that’s happening and get really nervous, but then I somehow find some comfort and solace in the fact that at least history isn’t really repeating itself… not yet anyways.
I don’t think I’ve really mentioned this yet, but I work at EA Mythic Entertainment. Mythic is best known for the still-popular MMO classic, Dark Age of Camelot. Anyway, I’ve had the privilege of working on Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, which just launched today! So you should all go play it, and tell me what you think!
One of the things I find baffling about humanity is how many tools we have in place to constantly make us feel insignificant, so we can spend our own efforts and lives to prove otherwise.